My name is Wayne Chang, co-founder of Spruce Systems, Inc. (https://spruceid.com). Spruce builds open source software that allows for the signed issuance of data to users that can then be verified. For example, transaction histories, educational qualifications, and reputation from online platforms.
I grew up on the Internet like many of you. I spent a lot of time on IRC where people frequently tried to dox others, and grew a profound respect for privacy as a result. When your online identity is a big part of who you are, it means a lot more when someone violates your privacy. Online identities will become a lot more of who everyone is, as we’ve seen especially over the past 12 hectic months. Today, we don’t have the right tools to assert control over our own identities or data, and we’re trying to change that with Spruce.
When you download your data from Google Takeout, you get a big .zip file that can’t really be used for anything but backups. The same is true with Facebook and LinkedIn. Most services don’t have automated data export and are only required to provide data when you ask.
Using new standards from W3C called Verifiable Credentials and Decentralized Identifiers, our software allows statements about people, places, and things to be issued as a package, linked together, digitally signed, and cryptographically verified. For example, employees can receive digital proofs of employment to get a mortgage. Gig economy workers can port their ratings from one system to another in a way they control. Data sets can travel along with signed statements that they have been stripped of personally identifiable information. By allowing data to move out of silos and increasingly into the hands of their owners, we can loosen the grip of a few large companies in owning everything.
These standards are already being adopted by big players open to data portability including Microsoft (issuance via Active Directory), Workday (portable work histories), the Digital Credentials Consortium (MIT/Harvard/UC Berkeley diplomas and coursework), and the World Health Organization (privacy-preserving vaccination records).
This technology could fundamentally change how we interact digitally. Instead of advertisers profiling people behind their backs, people can just present their credit card histories from Yodlee to get better offers at competitors. In web services, users can upgrade their accounts if they prove they belong to certain alumni networks. Businesses can reduce fraud and improve conversion while users regain control of their information, like if 1Password could store structured documents and also demonstrate their authenticity, untampered from their origins.
At Spruce, we’ve built a cross-platform Rust library called DIDKit that supports the use of Verifiable Credentials, Decentralized Identifiers, and many adjacent specifications in a neat bundle. Through customer feedback, we have grown the list of supported platforms to include Java, C/C++, and Node.js, with many more on the way. We further embed DIDKit into a Flutter application called Credible that runs on Android, iOS, and in the browser through WebAssembly/asm.js. It’s all open source under Apache 2.0. We make money by selling commercial tools, project roadmap commitments, and support contracts.
A great place to start is by building the DIDKit CLI tool and running the example credential issuance and verification shell script on your local GNU/Linux or MacOS machine (also works with Windows using WSL 2).
We invite you to leave feedback about our engineering approach, platforms you’d like to see supported, and interesting use cases that would benefit people if their data were more portable and provably authentic.
You can find our repos here: